Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

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Fashionista Fiasco

Gail Has No Problem With Blood

Make George's Cravable Breakfast Sausage

Gail Simmons Won't Be Pushed Around

Make Doug's Winning Mussels

Tom Colicchio Answers Your Restaurant Wars Qs

Gail: It Wasn't Keriann's Day

Make Doug's Winning Braised Pork!

Gail: We Had a Tough Job This Week

Make Katsuji's Authentically Delicious Stuffing

Hugh: The Demise of Cornwallis and Aaron

Make Gregory's Winning Dumplings

Richard: Chefs Please Follow Instructions

Richard Tries Money Ball Soup

Make a Home Run-Worthy Popcorn Crème Brule

Hugh: Where There's a Will There's a Fenway

Gail: Keriann and Aaron Were Being ---holes

Make the Winning Surf and Turf

Gail: We're Taking No Prisoners

Richard Goes From Player to Announcer

Tom Talks Boston

Gail: There Was No Season 11 Underdog

Hugh Wants Nick to Be Kind to Himself

Gail: It Was Difficult to Let Go of Shirley

Big Easy to Ocean Breezy

Gail: The Final Four Are Like Our Children

Emeril Is Proud to Serve Shirley's Dish

Hugh: Enough With the Mexican Food Hate

Gail on Favreau, Choi, and Finding Yourself

Hugh on Poor Boys, Swingers and Food Trucks

Emeril: Nick's Choice Is Part of the Game

Nick's License to Immune

Hugh's Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

Hugh Decides Eight Is Enough

Gail Talks OvenGate

Dookie Chase Makes Everybody Cry

Fin, Found, Floundering

What Danny Meyer Taught Gail Simmons

'Top Chef' Goes to Hog Heaven

Gris Gris Boucherie Ya Ya

Brian and Travis' Dud Spuds

Fashionista Fiasco

Carlos reacts to Howie's elimination.

Quickfire Challenge

"Let's blow this joint!" Thank you, Sara, for a great opening line -- "Me likey likey!" You know at this point the contestants have been confined for several weeks with no outside communication and I think it is really starting to show in both their actions and reactions. I liked the grocery aisle challenge. The chefs could end up with a lucky aisle ... or not. However they all had the same limited pantry supplies to work with, and I was a little surprised at how challenging this seemed to be for some of them. I am so glad to see that Brian has finally graduated from seafood...but Spam?! Apologies to all my friends in Hawaii for whom this mystery meat was a staple growing up, but yuck. You did make it look good and I guess this just shows that it really is all about cohesive thought. Sara's dish looked good, but perhaps the pasta was a bit too large. Is it just me, or would anyone else like to see a split screen of Hung's fantasy breakfast next to Frank's mushroom fantasy from Season 2?

Elimination Challenge

Follow the leader. What the &*%$? Seafood sausage again. I cannot believe that Brian would allow CJ to make this dish after he had previously made it not once, but twice for this competition! Even more incredulous is that no one -- fellow chefs nor judges alike -- mentioned it. At the Judges' Table it was as if this were so inspired. Last week CJ really got a free ride when he escaped the curse of the salad, but it looks like the meter on his cab is broken! Ha! Now I respect Tom's opinion, but I know how the game works. You said that you wished some of the chefs had just concentrated on fewer items and made them shine. However the truth is that if that had happened you would probably have said something like "You had all that time and this is all you did?" Let's face it, at a cocktail party people want variety. Poor Howie. Just as he seems to have gotten his sweating and temper under control, his food and inspiration seem to be fading. I saw this coming. As any true Top Chef fan knows, when the cameras begin to show your softer, gentler side, the end must be near! Ha!

To my surprise, all of the chefs seemed to be shocked over the amount of food that was being consumed. Are you kidding? These are fashionistas who haven't eaten a thing since 1989 -- about the same time that Hung first made his salmon mousse! From my experience with parties like this, you should only put foods that can stretch onto the stationary table and pass everything else. Otherwise people will try to make dinner out of it and it can be impossible to keep up. Finally to the judging table. Although this looks like a short process thanks to the joy of editing and limited time to present the segment, it can actually go on for hours. You can see from Hung's defensive stance how exhausting the combativeness between the judges and the contestants can get. I know firsthand how it can really feel -- as if the judges are attacking you over and over until someone is bound to crack.

A really telling sign was Sara's roll of the eyes when Padma asked to see everyone. Believe it or not, I actually agree with Tom that you should never hold back. I learned that lesson the hard way. But I also agree with Howie that you have to maintain your dignity, and all that sparring back and forth can really zap your creative juices. I was happy for Casey and Sara as they have really hung in there (pardon the expression) and presented consistently creative and tasty fare. Best of luck to Howie. Follow your own advice and just stay true to your food. Check out Miami Spice for my latest recipe on this week's webisode. Stay tuned, and Break an Egg!

Gail Simmons Won't Be Pushed Around

So she's going to take more time shopping at Whole Foods -- and ask for the best of Melissa's basket and Adam's shrimp.

Bravotv.com: Let's dive right in. How did it feel to go shopping?
Gail Simmons: Shopping at Whole Foods was fantastic and hilarious. It made us realize that you need to be strategic, which was the point of the exercise for us. They gave us 30 minutes, but we took a little longer. We didn't let the producers push us around! We’re not contestants and we weren't going to stand for it! So, you realize how little time you have, and how big Whole Foods can be. You spend a lot of time running around.

 

My strategy with my pantry was to get a lot of fresh, delicious food that you can cook in lots of different ways. A good balance of proteins, fish, fruits, vegetables, spices, fresh herbs, grains. But I didn't want to get too much. Everyone has different strategies; Padma got a ton of different ingredients. Tom's pantry was very pared down. Richard and I were somewhere in the middle.

 

Bravotv.com: Let's start by talking about the two dishes that came from your pantry?
GS: Katsuji and Melissa. They used the same protein, but their dishes were very different. They both used shrimp which one of the proteins that I bought. I bought something else too, something that I know has given people trouble in the past (which is why I specifically chose it) -- chicken wings. And I really wanted people to use them. Instead, they chose the easy way out because shrimps cook quickly.

Melissa's used a lot of fresh vegetables, which I was hoping she would: dill, mint, artichoke. I was so excited about all of it. I think it was beautifully done, a lovely salad with that little shrimp on top with spiced yogurt. But it was just a salad with a quick-cooking seafood. It was so similar to what she had done in Restaurant Wars when she made a scallop with grapefruit salad. I believe she could have done so much more. Melissa keeps saying she wanted to focus on her knife skills, and, of course, your knife skills have to be precise. But I need to see more than just knife skills. I want to see cooking skills, I want to see roasting skills, braising skills. I want to see her hands get a little dirtier and her dishes not be as superficial. It was a light, lovely dish. I was happy to eat it for lunch. But when you're competing against six other really talented chefs, we all want to see a little more depth. Katsuji on the other hand went big. He used his ingredients in a really powerful way. The potato salad, the poached shrimp had bold seasoning and I loved how they went together. It was a great dish. It may not have been the best of the day, but I was actually really happy with what he chose to make.

 

Bravotv.com: So for the rest, let's talk about who was on top and who was on bottom.

GS: At the top there was Gregory who really was going for Padma's heart there. He did great with his coconut milk curry. A really balanced, powerful dish. But it's something we’ve seen from Gregory many times in the past. In fact, in the first challenge he made a similar spicy curry dish with chicken. As much as we thought it was a delicious bowl of food, it was so typical of what we expect from Gregory. George's food was really exciting for us. This was my first time tasting his food and meeting him on Top Chef. He did a great job. The kebab was moist, seasoned really well, and the lentils were beautiful too. My only small issue with the dish is I couldn't understand why he separated the lentils from the kebab in two separate dishes. Why not put lentils on the plate and the kebab right on top, with a dollop of the yogurt? It seemed a little bit disconnected to me. But all-in-all, a really strong dish. Doug had the winning dish of the night. He used Richard's crazy pantry in a way that I thought was smart, clear-cut, and creative. The chorizo and mussels and peppers, just how Tom said, go together well, as do the cauliflower and the garlic. There was sweetness, there was spice, it was light and fresh but had a soulful, rustic flavor we all loved. You could see use of technique. On the bottom were dishes that tried to stretch and didn’t come through. Mei did a great job overall, except her lamb was undercooked. You want lamb medium, medium rare, but the center of that meat was raw to the point where the texture was chewy and almost cold. It would have been better if she had been able to cook it five minutes longer. We talked about Melissa's mistakes already, which also landed her on the bottom. I totally applaud Adam for trying to make a quick-flash marinade. He's been in the middle for so long and he thought "I gotta go big or I gotta go home." He tried to go big and unfortunately, he went home because of that technique. I get the idea of what he was doing, I don't doubt that it could've been successful if it were perhaps done in a different setting, with a little more control. But the flash marinade of his shrimp did not cook it as needed. It was still grey, it was still raw, and the texture of raw shrimp is not appealing. It's squeaky, it's squishy, and it becomes sort of mushy. We wanted it firm and cooked through. It's not like fish that you can eat sashimi-style Unfortunately Adam's hard work, his big risk sent him home.

I will miss him. I think he's an incredibly articulate, clever chef. I think he has an extraordinary career ahead of him. I'm excited to see him back in New York City. I can't wait to eat his food again. Also I want to say of this entire episode that was it was thrilling to see our superfans in the kitchen. We've never let people come into the kitchen in that way before, even though people ask us all the time. It brought so much good energy to have basically a live audience with us for the day. Everyone was so psyched. It was amazing to be around people who really love the show, to let them eat food from our talented chefs. SO much fun!